For members


How to get a carte vitale in France and why you need one

Applying for the health card carte vitale will get you free or discounted healthcare, but it will also make sure you are in the French social security system.

How to get a carte vitale in France and why you need one
The carte vitale grants you a refund on the cost of healthcare. Photo: AFP

The carte vitale is the national French health insurance card that allows those who have one to have most or all of their health costs either covered or reimbursed by the state.

The cards work mainly as a reimbursement system – when you have a doctor's appointment or are prescribed medication, you pay upfront to the doctor or pharmacist.

They then swipe your carte vitale and the government reimburses some or all of the cost directly back into your bank account.

The card doesn't pay for all of your medical costs unless in serious cases like cancer or heart disease.

How much is covered by the state depends on the treatment or action taken by the doctor. For example the rates of reimbursement depend on the specialist you see or the type of scan you get. 

In general for dental treatment the rates are much lower.`

So who pays the rest of the bill?

Most people have top up health insurance – known as a mutuelle – to cover the difference (or most of it) between what the state pays via the carte vitale and the total fee.

Anyone who is working in France or who has been legally resident for more than three months is entitled to the carte vitale and it is not means tested.

Until now, many British people living in France have relied on the European health insurance card, what used to be called the E111.

However it is advised that these people now get a carte vitale, firstly because the European health insurance card won't work after Brexit, and second because it is another way of ensuring that you are “in the system” in France.

So how to go about it?

Like most things in France, it will probably involve a lot of paperwork, but the system itself is relatively simple.


The French health insurance site Ameli

First you need to get an application form – these are available to download from the French health insurance site –

The form itself is fairly straightforward and just asks for personal details like name, age and address. 

It does include a box for a social security number, which you will not have yet – just ignore that. The same form is also used for people who already have a carte vitale but need to change their details.


You will then have to return the form by post to your local CPAM office (find out yours here) accompanied by various documents. You will need:

A photocopy of your passport

A photocopy of your visa or carte de sejour if you are required to have one (not currently needed for EU or Swiss citizens).

Your birth certificate. This cannot be a copy but must be the original. It must be the full certificate including parents' names (not the shorter certificate that most British people born before 1983 will have) and if it is not in French you will need to include a certified translation of it.

Your bank details – the relevé d'identite bancaire (RIB) that you are given by your bank. 

If you are working you will need proof of your employment – either a copy of your contract or a pay slip

If you are not working but are already in the system – for example as a jobseeker or asylum seeker – you will need to send copies of all the paperwork pertaining to your status.

If you are not working and are not already in the system you will need to send proof that you have been a resident in France for three months, documents accepted include rental contracts, utility bills, phone bills (but only for a fixed line, not a mobile) and, if you are studying, a certificate of study.

If you have children under the age of 18 living with you then you will need to include form S3705 – the Demande de rattachement des enfants mineurs à l'un ou aux deux parents assurés (application for the attachment of minor children to a parent's health insurance). This form is also available to download from the site. 

Once you have filled in the form and sent off the paperwork you should – if all the papers are correct – get a temporary number.

You can use this to claim back the cost of any health treatments, but you will have to fill out paper forms (feuille de soins) to claim them.

You then receive a permanent social security number. The time it takes to get the number varies significantly from area to area, some people get theirs in just a few weeks, for others it can take up to six months.

Once you get your permanent number, you will then get a second form to fill out and send back, together with a passport photo, and then you will be sent out the card.

The final thing to do is to choose a registered GP and fill out a form (declaration de choix du médecin traitant) that formally declares them as your chosen doctor.

While the whole process can be a lengthy one there are several bits of good news.

Firstly the Amelie site has an English section which explains the requirements for different classifications – retired, employed, self employed.

If you're still stuck there is an English language helpline, which is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Call 0 811 36 36 46 or 09 74 75 36 46 from France or 0033 811 36 36 46 from outside France.

Once you have a social security number you can set up an account on the Ameli site which you can use to track payments and make other changes, for example if you move house and need to change your address.

French vocab

L'assurance maladie – health insurance

Numéro de sécurité sociale – social security number

Medicin traitant – Your registered GP

Member comments

  1. This is a very useful item – really clear, setting out the terms of the CV. There is so much rumour and misleading data about the role of the “Mutuelle” out there on other sites. We have submitted our first application for the CV, so now can wait – with relief – that the rest will follow smoothly!

  2. Yes, but don’t you also need to obtain a S1 form from the UK if you’re receiving state pension, or, a refusal
    of S1 letter if you’re not receiving it?

  3. I’ve been fighting for a carte vitale for four years now. I dont have a birth certificate. My now deceased parents didn’t bother to register my birth. I left home at 15 and social servo got me a NI number and passport. I’ve paid in NI and taxes all my life. I now own a business and home in France and pay my taxes and have a residency card. All this without a birth certificate but CPAM have not accepted decades of passports and tax docs,
    Does anyone have any idea how I can get my carte vitale or who I have to talk to? CPAM asked my deceased parents to confirm this but as yet they haven’t replied 🙂

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Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Judges on Thursday dismissed legal challenges to Italy's vaccine mandate as "inadmissible” and “unfounded”, as 1.9 million people face fines for refusing the jab.

Italy's constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Judges were asked this week to determine whether or not vaccine mandates introduced by the previous government during the pandemic – which applied to healthcare and school staff as well as over-50s – breached the fundamental rights set out by Italy’s constitution.

Italy became the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

The Constitutional Court upheld the law in a ruling published on Thursday, saying it considered the government’s requirement for healthcare personnel to be vaccinated during the pandemic period neither unreasonable nor disproportionate.

Judges ruled other questions around the issue as inadmissible “for procedural reasons”, according to a court statement published on Thursday.

This was the first time the Italian Constitutional Court had ruled on the issue, after several regional courts previously dismissed challenges to the vaccine obligation on constitutional grounds.

A patient being administered a Covid jab.

Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

One Lazio regional administrative court ruled in March 2022 that the question of constitutional compatibility was “manifestly unfounded”.

Such appeals usually centre on the question of whether the vaccine requirement can be justified in order to protect the ‘right to health’ as enshrined in the Italian Constitution.

READ ALSO: Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Meanwhile, fines kicked in from Thursday, December 1st, for almost two million people in Italy who were required to get vaccinated under the mandate but refused.

This includes teachers, law enforcement and healthcare workers, and the over 50s, who face fines of 100 euros each under rules introduced in 2021.

Thursday was the deadline to justify non-compliance with the vaccination mandate due to health reasons, such as having contracted Covid during that period.

Italy’s health minister on Friday however appeared to suggest that the new government may choose not to enforce the fines.

“It could cost more for the state to collect the fines” than the resulting income, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci told Radio Rai 1.

He went on to say that it was a matter for the Economy and Finance Ministry, but suggested that the government was drawing up an amendment to the existing law.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

The League, one of the parties which comprises the new hard-right government, is pushing for fines for over-50s to be postponed until June 30th 2023.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had promised a clear break with her predecessor’s health policies, after her Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic in 2021 when it was in opposition.

At the end of October, shortly after taking office, the new government allowed doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work earlier than planned after being suspended for refusing the Covid vaccine.

There has been uncertainty about the new government’s stance after the deputy health minister in November cast doubt on the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, saying he was “not for or against” vaccination.

Italy’s health ministry continues to advise people in at-risk groups to get a booster jab this winter, and this week stressed in social media posts that vaccination against Covid-19 and seasonal flu remained “the most effective way to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially the elderly and frail”.